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Solving problems together

During the COVID-19 pandemic, households may face an increased tensions. This article explains why it's important to work together.
An adult and young person doing a jigsaw together and smiling
© University of Reading

During the COVID-19 pandemic, families may be facing an increased number of stressors and tensions may be riding particularly high. In spite of this, it’s helpful for family units to come together to work through their problems. Try to be mindful of how others are feeling and to be more forgiving if they need to explode, cry or simply hide away.

Irritability and anger are a common symptom of low mood and depression, so it’s likely that whilst we’re down, we may also be grumpy or agitated. Many young people along with parents and carers may be feeling like this now, and it’s important to allow and accept these emotions and if possible help each other to move past them. We need to be kind to ourselves and each other, and when possible work together through difficulties to find solutions. Having a fresh pair of eyes on a problem can be particularly helpful in offering a new perspective.

Identifying and solving problems

Although we often encounter problems in daily life, many of us are faced with more problems than normal at the moment. These might relate to normal daily activities (keeping in touch with friends, cooking, cleaning, being organised etc) or to more major concerns (exams, finances, home-schooling, family health, future plans). The way that we perceive these problems impacts significantly on how we approach them, and this in turn may impact on our own well-being.

For example, seeing problems as an overwhelming, frustrating burden, prevents us from proactively trying to find good solutions. We then tend to think, ruminate and worry about these problems repeatedly, which negatively affects mood. Although not all problems can be fixed (you explored strategies in Steps 2.2 – 2.5 for dealing with problems that can’t immediately be solved), for other problems, there may be ways of supporting each other to approach and confront problems so that we’re actually doing something, rather than just turning them over in our minds.

General principles around effective problem-solving

  • Tackling a problem will not always be successful and you may need to adopt different techniques. However, working on solutions together will enhance family communication, as well as helping family members to understand each other’s points of view.

  • If you’re finding it hard to problem-solve at the moment, start with something smaller, to get into the habit of problem-solving and build your confidence.
  • When problem-solving together, it’s really crucial to listen to each other’s solutions, no matter how bizarre you think they may be. Sometimes it’s the really ‘crazy’ solutions that can inspire us to come up with creative ways of solving our problems.

  • This worksheet helps to break down the steps involved in problem solving. Use it to think about problems which you may be currently facing.

Do you have any helpful tips or pointers regarding solving problems? What have you found helpful? Share your thoughts in the discussion below.

© University of Reading
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COVID-19: Helping Young People Manage Low Mood and Depression

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